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    3D Printing Lexicon

    The most common terminology


    ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.

    Belts: Toothed gear belts used to transfer movement from the motors to other parts of a machine.

    Bowden tube: The tube that the filament moves through. When the filament drive mechanism is placed on a non-moving part of the 3D printer, the filament can be pushed into the PTFE (Teflon™) tube. This configuration keeps the extruder light: the lighter the extruder, the quicker you can move the toolhead when not extruding.

    Brim: This is the single-layer flat area around the base of the model, sometimes enabled in your slicer to ensure adhesion to the build plate. Unlike a skirt, a brim has a 0.00mm offset from your model. The brim is attached to your part and extends outward, like the brim of a hat. Use brims to stabilize small parts or isolated sections of a model.


    Build Plate: The platform, sometimes referred to as bed, that the model is printed on.

    Build Platform: What the build plate is supported by.

    Build Volume: Also known as Build Envelope. The X, Y and Z dimensions of the printable area of your 3D printer. These dimensions define how large your 3D model can be.

    C - H

    CAD or Computer Aided Design: The use of a computer to create precise designs.

    Coupling Collet: The white plastic sleeve that uses pressure and friction to hold the Bowden tube in place.

    Drafting: The use of computer programs and systems to design detailed two- or three-dimensional models of physical objects.

    Dual Extrusion: The ability to simultaneously print 3D models in two colors or with different materials.

    Endstop: The switches that help protect the machine from moving past its intended range and damaging itself.

    Extruder: The group of parts of the 3D printer which handles feeding and extruding of the build material.

    Filament: The material used in or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printing.

    Firmware: The software that runs on the electronics and controls the 3D printer.

    G-code: The programming language used to tell a computerized machine tool what to make and how to make it. The code defines where the machine needs to move, how fast, and what path to follow.

    Ghosting: Ghosting is an artefact in the print due to the vibrations in the printer that are induced by rapid changes of direction.

    Heated bed: The build surface warmed in order to keep the base of an extruded part from cooling (or shrinking) too quickly. 3D printers with heated beds usually yield higher quality finishing on prints. The heated beds are commonly made of of glass, ceramics, or metals like aluminum.

    Hot end: The bottom of the extruder that heats up to melt the filament.

    I - R

    Infill: The mesh pattern inside the 3D print that provides structure.

    Layer height: Also known as layer resolution, this is the thickness of one printed layer measured in millimeters. With a thinner layer height you will usually increase the quality of the print, leading to a smoother surface and more detail visible in the Z-direction of the model.

    Mesh: The term for the net of polygons that describes the surface of a 3D model. For example, an STL file is simply a description of a triangular mesh.

    Nozzle: The nozzle is the component of a 3D printer that deposits the molten filament into the build area. There are many different types of 3D printer nozzles available and leveraging their different strengths is important. Standard brass nozzles are great for general purpose 3D printing but abrasive filament like NylonX requires a high performance nozzle. Copper plated and CleanTip specialty nozzles are built to stay clean and not let filament stick to them.

    OBJ file: An acronym for Object File which is a frequently used file format used in 3D modeling software. This text-based geometry definition file format was first developed by Wavefront Technologies.

    Overhang: This is the part of a 3D model that hangs in midair. Remember, you can’t print in air. A rule of thumb is that you can successfully print an overhang of less than 45° unsupported.

    Parametric: An adjective that means something is adjustable in all dimensions. A parametric model is one that can be resized and or distorted to suit the user’s needs.

    PLA: Polylactic Acid, a thermoplastic made from fermented plant starch (usually corn). It is an alternative to petroleum-based plastics. PLA is technically carbon neutral in that it comes from renewable, carbon-absorbing plants, and it does not emit toxic fumes when incinerated. However, PLA biodegrades slowly, with a minimum of 100 years, unless it is subjected to industrial composting. PLA has a very low shrinkage, which makes it ideal for 3D models and prototyping at home.
    Print speed: The speed at which the print head moves while it is printing. Based on the print speed the amount of plastic that needs to be extruded will be calculated.

    Positioning precision: The accuracy with which the print head moves in the X and Y direction. Instead of moving around in a perfect circle, the print head moves in steps of 12.5 micron.

    PVA: Polyvinyl Alcohol is a water-soluble filament used as 3D printing material for support. It is generally used as one of the filaments in dual extrusion 3D printers. PVA filament must be stored with a drying agent, since it will absorb moisture out of the air very easily. PVA also decomposes above 200°C. PVA is fully degradable and is quick to dissolve. To speed up dissolving, apply heat and agitation.

    Raft: This is the printing technique for adding removable support material at the bottom of a print in order to prevent warping. The raft itself is the horizontal latticework of filament located between the model and the build plate. Rafts can be useful when the bottom surface of a model is not completely flat or when the print has difficulty adhering to the build plate. Rafts are also used to help stabilize models with small footprints.


    Rendering: The process of producing an image based on three-dimensional data on a computer.

    Resizing: The process of altering the size of your model.

    Retraction: Retraction is the recoil movement of the filament necessary to prevent dripping of material during movements and displacements that the vacuum extruder performs during 3D printing.

    S - Z

    Shell: The exterior layer of a 3D printed model.


    Skirt: This is a line printed around the object on the first layer, but not connected to the object. This helps prime the extrusion and also gives you a moment to check and correct any bed leveling issues before printing starts.Slice: The single layer of a 3D printed model.

    Slicer: The software required to convert an STL or OBJ file into G-code, the machine readable file needed by a 3D printer to reproduce the model. Slicers, like Cura cut the model into horizontal layers (slices) and generates the toolpaths needed to fill them.
    Specifications or specs: An explicit set of requirements to be satisfied by a material, product, or service.

    STL file: STL, STereoLithography, or Standard Tessellation Language.

    Support: Additional material which can be generated by your slicer to support the structure of the model which wouldn’t have any stability otherwise. Support parameters can be adjusted.

    Technical Drawings: Drawings that contain geometric figures and symbols to convey the scope and details of a project.

    Thermoplastics: A polymer that becomes pliable or moldable above a specific temperature and returns to a solid state upon cooling. There are 8 common thermoplastics: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC),Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene (PE), Polystyrene (PS), Polymethyl or Polymethacylate (Acrylic), Polycarbonate (PC), Polyesters (PET, PETE).
    Travel speed: The speed at which the print head moves while it is not extruding any plastic.